I did possess certainty, but I lost it again; and I'll find it again tomorrow and will lose it again the next day. -- Gustav Mahler
In a city where even the valet of a celebrity was a celebrity, the Viennese debut of Alma Rosé was a major occasion. Alma's premiere performance was set for 16 December 1926, six weeks after her twentieth birthday, in the Grosser Musikvereins-Saal. Father Rosé would conduct a chamber orchestra composed of musicians from the Philharmonic and would step down from the podium, passing the baton to his frequent colleague Adolf Busch, 1 to play the Bach Double Violin Concerto with his daughter.
Alma was under intense pressure. To appear with Vati in Vienna was to fulfill a dream, and to disappoint him was unthinkable. Yet the "made in the musical nursery" label would work for her as well as against her.
Richard Strauss was among the notables who attended the Thursday concert. Alma was nervous, and her playing tentative. The audience had expected the fiery abandon of the popular Erica Morini, but Alma was schooled in a quieter musicianship and did not throw herself into her playing. Audience reaction and reviews were lukewarm. Alma's talent was unripe, the critics judged. A Polish writer concluded that Alma was not yet able to release "the song within her." 2
Music critic Paul Bechert, in the prestigious New York-based Musical Courier, devoted a column to Alma's "auspicious debut at Vienna." His judicious comments, with an accompanying picture, appeared under the headline "Enter the Young Generation."
Something of an event was the debut concert of Alma Rosé. She is loved in Vienna for her father's sake, and as the niece of Gustav Mahler. Such descent sufficed to ensure a full house -- but it is a sword that cuts both ways, for expectations in such cases are far higher than usual. Young